A man with a long criminal history who “acted in cold blood” to execute a man at the former Tip Toe Inn nearly seven years ago received essentially a life sentence Monday.
Prosecutors asked for and won the stiff sentence for Sylvester Young, arguing both the nature of the crime and Young’s criminal history warranted it.
A Schenectady County Court jury in June found that the 37-year-old Young fired a single shot from close range into the back of Jumez Lee’s head as both were in an illegal after-hours bar early on the morning of Jan. 25, 2009. The jury also convicted Young on other charges related to the shooting and aftermath.
Prosecutors contended Young fired the shot to settle a years-old score with Lee. Young blamed Lee for a non-fatal 2005 Schenectady shooting. No arrests were ever made in the 2005 case.
Judge James A. Murphy III handed down a total sentence of 90 years to life in state prison. The final minimum number differed from the prosecution’s request by 10 years, though essentially left the same result. Prosecutor Philip Mueller had asked for 100 years to life.
Mueller paved the way for the stiff sentence by successfully arguing that Young is a persistent offender. The ruling from Murphy that Young is a persistent offender increased the maximum penalty for any felony conviction to 25 years to life. Murphy found four of Young’s convictions could run consecutively for the total 90-year to life sentence.
In handing down the sentence, Murphy disagreed with a defense contention that Lee’s prior actions somehow called for a lesser sentence.
“That can never justify or mitigate the actions of a defendant for murder,” Murphy said.
Authorities first charged Young with Lee’s killing in January 2014. He’d been in custody on an unrelated drug case since days after the 2009 shooting.
The jury found that Young fired a single shot at Lee inside the former inn at the corner of Hamburg Street and Altamont Avenue. Some people were there for a birthday party, while others came later.
Mueller has said Young smuggled two guns into the bar that morning but didn’t go there intending to kill Lee. Lee may not have known Young was even present.
The bullet that struck Lee continued on and hit a nearby woman. She survived. She also happened to be a friend of Young’s, Mueller told the jury at trial.
Young’s criminal history includes drug and attempted weapons possession counts. Even as a juvenile, Young admitted to setting a fire in a classroom, Mueller said.
Mueller argued that Young has shown that he will continue to commit crimes if he is ever released.
He also argued Young convinced others to help cover up his involvement.
“From arson in a classroom to cold-blooded murder,” Mueller told Murphy, “what more does he need to show us?”
Young maintained his innocence in court Monday, calling the case “trumped up.” He accused witnesses of changing their stories and lying on the stand and questioned the use of a new type of DNA technology.
Young ultimately asked the court for leniency, saying the jury convicted him “for something I did not do.”
Young’s attorney, Adam Parisi, argued the maximum wasn’t appropriate in the case in part because of the allegations against the victim, Lee.
Parisi spoke as though Lee’s involvement in the 2005 shooting was certain, though Lee was never charged. Prosecutors also have said investigators looked at Lee while investigating the 2007 fatal shooting at the Shanghai Bistro that remains unsolved.
Parisi argued Lee “chose to live by the sword.”
An appeal is expected. If Young’s conviction and sentence hold up, he would not be eligible for parole until the year 2104, when he would be 125.